Knowing When to Start Over

I like the challenge of trying to pull something that appears to be failing out of the fire, plus, I’m a bit lazy about starting over and try to convince myself that what I have will work.  But this time, with the paper clay frog, there really was no choice but to scrap it and start over.  
The paper clay frog wasn’t working because I just couldn’t get it small enough.  So I started over with polymer clay.  She has a walnut-sized wad of aluminum foil at her core, then it’s all polymer clay from there except for the glass eyes.  As always, I use eyes from http://www.glasseyesonline.com, a site that I highly recommend.  Anyway, the top photo shows her ready to go into the over for a 45 minute cure at 265 degrees F.

Then I finished her with acrylic paint and three coats of satin acrylic varnish.  She’s just the right size and looks good – at least to my eye.  (Sorry these photos are not in focus – but you get the idea!)

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Supporting Characters for the Lady of the Lake

The supporting characters are beginning to make their appearances.  One of the paper clay frogs is taking shape on the base, and the dragonfly that will alight on her paw is “in process” in the lower left corner of the photos.  I made the dragonfly body, head, and legs from wire and beads.   The wings are a fabulous product called “fantasy film” stiffened (and attached to the body) with wire, coated with Golden Glass Bead Gel and sprinkled with green glass beads.  The gel starts out opaque then dries clear.  In the photo it’s still opaque.
Here’s the first stage of the frogs and dragonfly.  The white on the dragonfly is the glue before it dried clear – Alene’s Quick Grab, by the way.

"Body of Work"

For many weeks now – maybe longer – I’ve been working on relatively small scope projects, something that I’ll finish in 4 to 6 hours.  And I’m feeling a need to worked on some larger, more complicated, more detailed, and just, in general “more” projects.  So here’s the result of about a week into my first one.

Meet the “Lady of the Lake” – my interpretation of a seminal character from the great Arthurian legend.  At this point, I’ve finished needle felting the otter, creating the base, and attaching her to it.

The base is a piece of gourd that I painted.  I coated it with clear gesso so that the paint would stick but also reveal the beauty of the gourd surface in unpainted areas.  There are 1/4″ thick bolts glued with two-part epoxy to the armature that allow me to connect her to (or remove her from the base).  Quite an engineering feat, I think, but wish I had thought of it sooner in the process – next time!

So, the remaining elements are her costume, the dragonfly that has alit on her paw, and two frogs ar her base.  Onward!!!

Working on Thank You Gifts

As both a buyer and seller on Etsy I decided to use my own personal buying experiences to improve my shop.  One of my favorite things, when done well, is ordering a special item, having it arrive, and then opening the package to special surprises – beautiful packaging, and perhaps a little “thank you” token gift.
So I spent some “think time” on thank you gift ideas, then delved into making some samples.  The photo above shows my first attempt – tiny journals.  When closed, they measure 4″ tall by 3 1/2″ wide.  The covers are collages featuring photos of cats and dogs clipped from magazines and my painting.  I’ve embellished them with gold edges and accents as well as a Swovski crystal.  They have 20 blank pages inside.  They’re held together by stitching with colored embroidery thread, and the thread – both ends tipped with crystal beads – ties around the journal to close it.  
They were very fun to make and the materials weren’t very expensive, but it took me nearly 2 hours to make them – a bit work-intensive for a thank you gift for every order, but appropriate, perhaps, for my higher end items.
So I scaled the project down and came up with tags, as shown below. 

They’re 4″ tall by 3″ wide and are, once again, collages featuring cats and dogs clipped from magazines and embellished with my painting, gold accents, and a Swarovski crystal.  I’ve glued a painted paper cut-out heart at the top, punched a hole in it, and added a bit of pretty ribbon.  I think these could serve as gift tags, book marks, or just something pretty leaning against the books on a shelf.
Both projects were really fun to do, and the tag project inspires me to do an Easter garland with perhaps a dozen of these tags strung together.  Collage is SO FUN!

Before and After – The Transformation of Glazing

I thought my readers, especially those of you who don’t do ceramics yourselves, might be interested in seeing the differences between glazes out of the bottles and once they’re fired.  In each pair of photos, the first one shows the pieces with the dried but un-fired glazes sitting in the kiln waiting to be fired.  The second shows the same pieces when I opened the kiln after firing.  The firing of this type of clay and glaze takes a bit over 7 hours and the temperature goes to around 2000 degrees Farenheit.

It’s an Otter!

This river otter is, I think, the best needle felted animal I’ve done so far.  I really have the technique I use for the hands and fingers down pat and I feel that I did an exceptional job on the face.  I’ve been moving away from Sara Renzulli’s technique of building little shapes and layering them onto the form to working more with unformed clumps of fiber and modeling them in place.  This technique seems to take longer but I like the results.
With this last comment I must also say that I greatly admire Sara’s artistry and also like the range of supplies she offers in her on-line shop, http://www.sarafinafiberart.com.  If you’re interested in needle felting and haven’t visited her site,give yourself a treat and go there!  Among so many other things, you’ll find many free tutorials on needle felting which is how I got started in this medium.

The one thing I am dissatisfied with about this piece is the color.  For a while now I’ve been frustrated with not being able to find wool with the exact animal colors I’m looking for.  I took a plunge and ordered a Baby Brother Drum Carder so that I can mix my own custom colors, and I’ll get back to you all on how that works for me.
I always try to find a way to make my animals special with a little unexpected addition of some kind, and in the case of this otter, I gave her an amulet.  It’s tiny drilled river rocks on a hemp cords.  I think it works well, giving her a touch of magic and mysticism.

Just Waiting

Here’s my current group of sculptures drying in the kiln and waiting to be bisque fired.  I need several pieces for it to make financial sense to run the kiln and, to tell the truth, I could fit a second layer, but I’m OK with going with it at this point.

With this batch I’ve started a new regimen of letting the pieces dry in the kiln.  I’ve found that when I let them dry outside the kiln and then transfer them they’re prone to breakage as a dry piece is so much more fragile than a wet one.  So I’m hoping this will work well for me.